By Joshua Boyd / USPHL.com
Tampa Bay Juniors (2) vs. Palm Beach Typhoon (3)
All games at Fort Myers Skatium
Tampa Bay is home team for Games 1 and 3, Palm Beach is home for Game 2
Game 1: Saturday, March 11, 1 p.m. EST
Game 2: Sunday, March 12, 1 p.m. EST
Game 3: Monday, March 13, 1 p.m. EST (if necessary)
It’s the Gulf Coast vs. Atlantic Coast. The Tampa Bay Juniors, on Florida’s Gulf Coast are excited to face off against the Atlantic-leaning Palm Beach Typhoon – and it’s all happening at the Fort Myers Skatium beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s going to be an exciting series, anything can happen,” said Typhoon Head Coach Joe Flanagan. “We have the type of team proven this year that we can beat every team. The players are super-motivated, very excited to be in the playoffs. Our goal this year was to make playoffs, now here we are as seed No. 3, though still underdog.”
The Juniors are entering off a 27-15-0-2 season, during which they contended at times for the Florida title (which they’d won multiple times, and as recently as 2020-21).
“I liked how our players competed this season,” said Tampa Head Coach Garrett Strot. “With only three returners and one of the youngest Elite teams in the league.”
They are facing a Palm Beach team against whom they went 5-1-0-0 this season, but by no means would Tampa Bay be planning to tap-dance through this. Palm Beach will bring it, especially bringing two of the top 10 scorers in the league, including ‘05 sensation Sean Boltin who missed the scoring title by one single point, coming in at 82 points. Lucas Nichols checked in at 60 points, and he tied for third in goals with 33.
“We are the type of team that can win 3-2 or 8-7,” said Flanagan. “Our top line is one of the top lines in all of the Elite – Boltin, Brayden Curry and Nichols – so they’re a threat every time they’re on the ice. We have good solid D, with Chris Maybury and Charles Boulet on D, and our goaltending is playing well. I think we have a pretty good deep group, which should be to our advantage.”
Ari Blatt led the Juniors with 42 points, but was the only player averaging at least a point per game – but what Tampa Bay had were 12 players with 20 points or more, so their opponents needed to have their heads on a swivel, as the goals can come from anywhere.
“What worked best is the buy-in we had from everyone. It is a very hard-working group,” added Strot. “We’ve been focusing in preparing for playoffs on how important defense is, not only in the defensive zone.”
Dylan Bruce finished top 10 in both goals against average (2.46) and save percentage (.921) for Tampa.
“I know we beat them once at home,” said Flanagan. “The last couple games we played them weren’t very good for us, but I do think we match up pretty well with them. Even if we didn’t have much success during the regular season, it should be a good series.”
“The Typhoon have a very dangerous line and we have to be very aware when they are on the ice,” Strot added. “I expect a fun series as both teams like to get up and down the ice.”